With tour buses and Sprinter vans mothballed for most of 2020 (and beyond), musicians have had to think out of the box and embrace modern technology when it comes to keeping a connection with their respective fanbase. Most have upped their game with regards to social media and offered fans a glimpse behind the curtain, but it’s the advent of the Livestream which has been the one shining light for those missing the thrill of the house lights going down.
So a week or so before Kiss blow up the Atlantis Resort in Dubai with their New Years’ Eve Livestream, the Kris Barras Band faithful settled down in front of screens everywhere to tune into the “Kris Barras Band – Kris-Mas Livestream Concert”. And what a memorable night it was. Giving the fans more bang for their bucks, the set is split into two parts; the first 30 minutes is acoustic before the full band appears larger-than-life for a full 90-minute electric set.
Once the black screen fades out the smiling faces of Kris Barras himself and his trusty sidekick Josiah J. Manning appear front and centre. No grimey shots, no guerilla-style camera work; just good, clear footage that makes the viewer feel like they are sitting alongside the pair on their very own barstool. The sound is first class, and whoever was in charge of it needs a raise! If you caught Barras and Manning opening for Beth Hart on her UK tour last year, then the format on display tonight would not have been a total surprise. Barras even jokes that Manning had found an old setlist from the tour and it’s now on the floor in front of him. With a full electric set to follow, the pair use the time wisely and drop a few choice cuts into the acoustic set that won’t feature later on. Songs are introduced by Barras mentioning that some of them work better acoustically, and there’s a nice touch when ‘Propane’ is dedicated to the admin of the Kris Barras Fanpage. The 30 minutes zoom past in a blink of the eye, with a stunning cover of ‘Wicked Game’ standing out (and not just because Barras stops Manning after a few bars of the intro; telling him “you didn’t count me in!”), and before you know it, Barras is telling the audience to go “grab a beer and a quick piss” while they set up the electric set.
After an intermission that features a cover version of ‘Come Together’, the screen flickers back to life, and the full band (Barras, Manning, along with Kelpie Mckenzie on bass, and Billy Hammett on drums) are plugged in, ready to go for the main set. It’s pretty bloody obvious from the off that the band has been counting down the days until this Livestream. Gig-goers bemoan how hard it’s been without gigs, and rightly so, but can you imagine how difficult that it’s been for musicians? By the time that the band has floored it through opening number ‘Ignite (Light It Up)’ they have partly laid the ghost of 2020 to rest and for the remaining 85 minutes or so, the band could be playing to a packed 02 Arena rather than a select few crew members. After the second track ‘Counterfeit People’, Barras exclaims; “It feels good to be back! It feels good to be playing!” And it shows.
Like the preceding acoustic set, the electric set is anything but by-the-numbers. Sensing that this is indeed a special occasion, Barras has dropped a few nuggets into the set; including a first-ever live run-through of ‘Bullet’, which comes complete with a special co-writing mention to Manning who is now perched in a more familiar position behind his keyboard. ‘Lovers or Losers’ serves as a timely reminder of just how strong a guitar player Barras actually is. More of a grittier, bluesier vibe on this one, and it leads perfectly into a rousing version of ‘Broken Teeth’ which has Barras breaking out the bottleneck for some fiery slide playing. The band is playing a blinder, especially drummer Billy Hammett who is isolated in a separate booth behind the rest of the band, his work on ‘Not Fading’ in particular is stunning, as it also is throughout the evening (love, love, love ‘Kick Me Down’ which is played later on as it’s his favourite, and his pummeling work on ‘6 AM’…).
The barroom-boogie of ‘Wound Up’ (another track never played live before) is beautifully followed up with a jaws-to-the-floor rendition of ‘Watching Over Me’. An emotional tour-de-force and anyone who has caught Barras in concert since the release of the ‘Divine and Dirty’ album in 2018 will know that he always dedicates this song to his late father. Here, Barras mentions that he always said that he would never dedicate the song to anyone else but after the shittiest year on record he feels that it’s fitting to dedicate it to everybody. A show-stopping few minutes, as always. As is the set-closing ‘Hail Mary’ where Barras asks the audience to piss off their neighbours by singing along as loud as they can. One of those tracks tailor-made for audience participation regardless of whether or not the audience is there in person. Spread out with band introductions and an extended jam (complete with Barras getting so carried away that he knocks out his in-ear monitors) it’s a killer way to end the evening: or is it indeed the end? It is a Kris-Mas party after all so the set has to end with a Christmas tune, it’s a UN regulation, and them’s the rules. Anyone up for a bit of Noddy? Well here comes ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ because it’s Christmaaaaaaaaassssss!
Barras admitted during the Livestream that he was quite wary of the format, and perhaps that’s why it’s taken him so long to do one. He needn’t have worried though for he well and truly knocked it out of the park. Kudos to everyone involved. Same time next year?
Connect with The Kris Barras Band here.